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It is known that extracellular glutamate concentrations are increased in tendinopathy but the effects of glutamate upon human tendon derived cells are unknown. The primary purpose was to investigate the effect of glutamate exposure on human tendon-derived cells in terms of viability, protein, and gene expression. The second purpose was to assess whether NMDAR antagonism would affect the response of tendon-derived cells to glutamate exposure. Human tendon-derived cells were obtained from supraspinatus tendon tissue obtained during rotator cuff repair (tendon tear derived cells) and from healthy hamstring tendon tissue (control cells). The in vitro impact of glutamate exposure and NMDAR antagonism (MK-801) was measured using the Alamar blue cell viability assay, immunocytochemistry, and quantitative real-time PCR. Glutamate reduced cell viability at 24 h in tendon tear derived cells but not in control cells at concentrations of 7.5 mM and above. Cell viability was significantly reduced after 72 h of 1.875 mM glutamate in both cell groups; this deleterious effect was attenuated by NMDAR antagonism with 10 µM MK-801. Both 24 and 72 h of 1.875 mM glutamate exposure reduced Type 1 alpha 1 collagen (COL1A1) and Type 3 alpha 1 collagen (COL3A1) gene expression, but increased Aggrecan gene expression. We propose that these effects of glutamate on tendon derived cells including reduced cell viability and altered matrix gene expression contribute to the pathogenesis of tendinopathy.

Original publication




Journal article


J Orthop Res

Publication Date





1515 - 1522


NMDAR, glutamic acid, pain, rotator cuff, tendinopathy, Adolescent, Adult, Cell Survival, Cells, Cultured, Dizocilpine Maleate, Female, Glutamic Acid, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate, Tendinopathy, Tendons, Young Adult